Back to Croydon



I woke, crapulent, after too little sleep, to find the cat staring at me. She’s now old enough not to pretend at affection; now her expression conveys contempt along with a need for warmth and food. She jumped up onto the bed and lay down next to me, and then studiously ignored me, even when I got on a Skype call with my wife and child.

An hour’s call didn’t do much to make me feel better: the physical debt I had incurred by sitting and drinking in the icy wastes of Crystal Palace last night wasn’t easily paid off. I packed – at least I wasn’t half full of cheap beer, unlike my struggle in Costa Rica a microeternity ago – and then went out to Croydon, to catch up with an old friend from university.

She has two daughters, and it is always enlightening to hear from a contemporary who has fifteen more years of parenting than I do. The futility of planning too much what your children will become is one thing; another is the amount of pressure that children have nowadays. It might seem easier, now they have smartphones and social networks and all the other accoutrements of this modern age, but so much else is required of them that wasn’t a couple of decades ago. Schoolchildren are professionalized, having to consider from an early age what are their most attractive extra-curricular activities, what will place them on the best conveyor belt for the rest of their lives. I have no idea how things will change in the next twenty years, other than that they will change, and I need to have robust systems in place so that La Serpiente Negra is well placed to cope.

Some of this is due to a higher level of perceived entitlement. Few people seem to remember when inflation ran in double figures in the Eighties, yet still mortgages now, with an abundance of cheap money, appear to suck at people’s lives. A taxi driver in Dublin once pointed out to me that in his day, you couldn’t afford to buy a sofa once you’d moved into your house. Now people expect to be able to sit comfortably. Will cheap access to sofas one day be seen as the point when the rot set in, when we grew accustomed to living beyond our means?

I don’t want for much, and I don’t want much either. Just a fast internet connection, an enormous television, three holidays a year in exotic locales, all the music I could ever listen to and all the books I could ever read, plus five bicycles, a sports car, a big house and only a few domestic servants. Is that too much to ask for?

Oh, and a pony. A hypoallergenic pony.

And some pizza.

When I get home, I might try to stop watching television. We don’t watch any broadcast programming at the moment, instead slaking our thirst for entertainment with downloaded television series, but after losing weeks of evenings to Community, Red Dwarf and The Shield, I worry we should engage more in the evenings, once La Serpientita is asleep. Or at least force ourselves to only watch Spanish language stuff. In battle, no plan survives contact with the enemy. Does any resolution survive contact with reality?


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